Saturday, June 22, 2013

Obvious Facts About School Board Members

#obviousfact1: effective School Board members want to learn more about great teaching & learning
#obviousfact2: effective School Board members’ knowledge of great teaching & learning affects decision-making
Given these #obviousfacts, how should district-level leaders cultivate School Board members’ instructional understanding and vision?
Hold an off-camera, business-casual workshop for your School Board regarding the instructional vision of you district. Don’t serve your Board members a death-by-powerpoint lecture regarding instruction. Instead, provide opportunities to share their perspectives, collaboratively articulate important concepts, and make connections among big instructional ideas.
Our School Board members endorse the importance of engaging students in rigorous work, work that is challenging in the sense advocated by Ken Kay, Tony Wagner, Bill Daggett and others. They believe that learning must prepare students to make productive contributions in the world. Our Board members also know that we promote Transformative Learning as a means to engaging students in rigorous work that prepares them to make productive contributions.

And after last Monday’s workshop, our School Board members have constructed a better understanding of Transformative Learning as an instructional vision. It helps that instructional matters greatly interest our Board members and that they were willing to give up another evening as part of their Board commitment!
Here is an overview of our workshop, which was designed primarily by Ashley Ellis (@afellis) and Mike Lombardo (@mlombardo99) with input from Stephanie Guy (@Guy726) and me (@ewilliams65). Ashley Ellis and Mike Lombardo facilitated the workshop. Participants included the five School Board members, Stephanie Guy, and me.
  • We read a definition of Transformative Learning and shared phrases with a partner that they found particularly compelling.
  • We reviewed two examples of Transformative Learning in our district, and identified and discussed the defining characteristics in the examples. One example involved elementary students blogging. The other example involved middle school students creating and publishing safety videos regarding severe weather.
  • We reviewed two more examples of Transformative Learning in our district and articulated how we would respond to a teacher or a principal sharing the example in a Board meeting. (We have monthly presentations at Board meetings of exemplary lessons.) One example involved students creating a humorous, informative physics tutorial. The other example involved high school students and elementary students within our district Skyping with one another in order to teach each other about habitats.
  • We watched a humorous video illustrating the importance of problem-solving skills and discussed how transformative learning better prepares our students to handle the situation.
  • We watched a video regarding project-based learning and identified how the eight essential elements of project-based learning were reflected in the profiled lesson.
  • We watched a second video profiling another PBL lesson and made connections between project-based learning and transformative learning.
  • Each participant then shared a few final reflections regarding their insights from the workshop.

School Board members greatly appreciated the workshop. They have fuller understanding of and greater commitment to our instructional vision. Although it may be #obvious that effective Board members want to learn more about great teaching and learning, last week’s workshop reinforced the importance of further cultivating their instructional knowledge and vision.


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